Gibson hoping to complete hat-trick of Etihad memories with Burnley

Ben Gibson keeps a close eye on Sergio Aguero in 2015
Ben Gibson keeps a close eye on Sergio Aguero in 2015

Ben Gibson is aiming to complete a hat-trick of memorable occasions at the Etihad Stadium tomorrow.

The Clarets centre back was only 12 when he enjoyed one of his best days as a supporter, watching Middlesbrough claim a UEFA Cup place at Manchester City’s expense in 2005.

And four years ago, he was in the Boro side which famously dumped City out of the cup with goals from future Burnley loan man Patrick Bamford and Spanish forward Kike.

Back in 2015, Aitor Karanka’s Championship promotion hopefuls stunned the Premier League champions, again in the fourth round of the cup.

Lifelong Boro fan Gibson looked back on a remarkable upset, and sees no reason why Burnley can’t repeat the feat: “Yes, it was unbelievable going there as a Championship team – I think we were second at the time, but you are still a massive underdog.

“Funny enough, everyone writes you off no matter what team you are in, but you always feel you can win, and I know we feel the same thing this time here.

“Yes, it might not happen all the time, but you go there full of belief and expecting yourself to put in a good performance and get the right result..You have to.

“That day was brilliant. We got battered for 85 minutes - it was a bit like the Alamo, but you stay in the game and the clock ticks by minute by minute.

“They don’t want a replay and it gets a little bit more desperate. And you’ve seen what can happen if you just get one opportunity.”

Gibson was up against the likes of Sergio Aguero, David Silva, Stevan Jovetic and substitute Edin Dzeko, and admitted: “It’s tough when they’re coming at you non-stop, but as a defender you sort of relish it.

“You wouldn’t relish it if you were 3-0 down and they were still coming at you, but at 0-0 you’re loving it.

“That’s what we’re there for, to defend. We enjoy doing it – blocking shots, heading balls. And hopefully come Saturday we’ll be in a similar scenario approaching the 80th minute.”

City had only returned from a warm weather training camp in Abu Dhabi the night before the game, but Gibson explained: “We got told that after the game, but all we knew was we were playing Manchester City and we were just concentrating on doing our best to try to prevent them doing what they are the best at.

“Everything is done so professionally now. That was how things might have been perceived but generally things like that wouldn’t impact on performance.

“The club wouldn’t have taken them to Abu Dhabi if they didn’t feel it was the right thing to do.”

City will no doubt make changes tomorrow after a busy week in which their Under 21s took on Sunderland in the EFL Trophy quarter-finals, before completing a routine Carabao Cup semi-final win at Burton Albion the night after, but Gibson said: “We’ve got to expect this weekend that the best Man City team is going to be playing, and that we’re going to be fighting and playing against top players.

“We know that, and we know we are going in as underdogs, but we believe we can cause an upset and we’re going there full of confidence, and doing our best to do so.”

Ten years before that cup triumph, Gibson had travelled down from the north east to watch Boro try to earn a second-successive season in the UEFA Cup, having reached the last 16 in 2004/05.

Steve McClaren’s side needed a point at City to clinch seventh place in the Premier League, as the expense of Stuart Pearce’s Blues.

Gibson watched on gripped by an extraordinary finale.

With the game level at 1-1, Pearce brought on future Clarets keeper Nicky Weaver for midfielder Claudio Reyna, and threw David James up front - despite having Jon Macken on the bench.

City went on to win a penalty in the second minute of injury time, but Mark Schwarzer denied Robbie Fowler from the spot, and Boro famously went all the way to the UEFA Cup Final the following year.

Gibson still remembers it well: “I was in the stand as a fan.

“I think we needed a draw to get into Europe and they needed to beat us.

“Me and my little brother and my mum and dad all had our Boro shirts on. It was fantastic.

“They’d got an equaliser and it was 1-1 and then they got a penalty for handball in the last minute, and up steps Robbie Fowler.

“I remember being in the stand saying Robbie Fowler doesn’t miss penalties.

“But Mark Schwarzer went down to his left and saved it, and as a kid that was one of my best memories, that and the Europe run.”

Gibson, unfortunately, was too young to remember Boro’s run to the FA Cup Final in 1997, but added: “Yes, but I’ve seen the goals and I know the early goal knocked the stuffing out of them.

“But it’s a competition that down the years has been fantastic for families.

“You look back on those memories, and no matter how old you get you remember those days with your families.

“Hopefully, we can produce a big upset, and it will be one day all these families around here will always remember.”